World Jewish Relief’s Janice Lopatkin, of Muswell Hill, made MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours for helping refugees find work
PUBLISHED: 11:32 13 June 2019
A Muswell Hill charity worker who has helped scores of Syrian refugees find work in Britain has been made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Janice Lopatkin is UK programme director at Childs Hill charity World Jewish Relief.
She established World Jewish Relief's specialist training and employment programme (STEP) in 2016 to help Syrian refugees arriving in the UK after the government announced 20,000 would be coming as part of the resettlement scheme.
Asked how she felt to receive the honour, she said: "I was shocked, surprised, and absolutely thrilled, and also really aware that this is very much a partnership programme - that what I've achieved, you can't do it on your own."
The STEP project was set up to fill a gap in the way refugees were cared for - to provide employment advice to them through one-to-one support, taking into account the qualifications, languages and skills they used back home.
Janice, 50, reckons the programme has helped about 500 refugees, with a fifth of those landing a job. By contrast, previous figures showed between 2 and 3 per cent of resettled refugees finding employment in the UK.
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"World Jewish Relief was originally set up to support refugees from Nazi Europe, to support them to come to the UK to safety," Janice told the Ham&High.
"So there was a lot of resonance with our history. And I think with many people within the community felt that we need to do something to help people coming here under very, very difficult circumstances."
Those on the programme have gone on to all sorts of work, with some ending up in similar roles to what they did in Syria and others working for businesses such as Timpson's and M&S.
Janice said: "I think businesses realised there is a fantastic potential workforce.
"I think people feel that they would like to be involved and be able to do something.
"There's a whole range of integration activities that can happen, and work is a really important part."
Janice has worked in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for more than 20 years, including as director of the Holocaust Education Trust.
She has campaigned to return the assets of Holocaust victims to their rightful owners and has worked for Women Like Us, which supports women to return to work after time out for caring responsibilities.